Monaco royals accept apology and libel damages over false story about marriage
Princess Charlene and Prince Albert leave the Prince's Palace after the wedding ceremony in Monaco on July 2, 2011. Celebrations including concerts and firework displays were held across several days, attended by a guest list of global celebrities and heads of state. (Reuters)
Prince Albert has finally received some measure of justice in his battle to fix the damage caused by stories that declared Charlene Wittstock wanted to get out marriage to him and even attempted to flee the country just days before their royal wedding in Monaco.
In a London court Tuesday, the Sunday Times apologized for its story and agreed to legal costs and pay unspecified damages. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, who accepted the terms, had been seeking about $475,000 in the suit filed last May.
The story was published just a day after the couple's lavish July 2011 wedding (right). In it, the London paper said Wittstock had tried to get out of the wedding when she learned that the prince had fathered a previously unknown third love child. The article stated that he had her passport confiscated to prevent her from leaving the country and, in the end, promised her money if she went through with the marriage.
"None of these allegations are true," Prince Albert's lawyer Mark Thomson told the court.
The Sunday Times, through its lawyer Rupert Earle, offered "its sincere apologies to the claimants for the damage, as well as the distress caused."
Under the heading "The full filthy Monte," the article had also alleged that Prince Albert had done nothing to stop corruption among his courtiers, or the "activities of mobsters and money launderers in the principality."
It further said that the prince gave residency status to foreigners in exchange for their silence about his love life.
In the weeks and months following the 54-year-old Prince's marriage to Wittstock, 32, the allegations about the 'runaway bride' caused "enormous upset and embarrassment," said Thomson.
The newlyweds spent much of their first year of marriage trying to get out from under the shadow of suspicion that their marriage was a fraud. They even appeared on the 'Today' show to combat the rumours.
"Why would he go through all this effort to have this fantastic couple of days, to have our most intimate dearest friends come join us, for us to be reluctant?" Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer from South Africa, said at the time. "It sounded a bit delirious."
Prince Albert said the stories were the result of people who were "envious or did not like the fact that we were finally … together and marrying."